Five players – Paul Broadhurst, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Adam Groom, Henrik Nystrom and Guido Van der Valk – carded four under par 66s to share the lead after the first round of The KLM Open at Hilversumsche Golf Club in The Netherlands.
All five tamed the demanding Hilversum venue with its tight fairways and demandingly penal rough to share pole position after an intriguing day’s play in one of the oldest golf championships in Continental Europe.
Of the quintet, perhaps the most pleased to be in such a lofty position was Broadhurst who at last began to see the fruits of the labours he has been putting in recently with his swing coach Bob Torrance.
Always aware of an inconsistency at the start of his downswing, the 39 year old - who won the Estoril Open de Portugal Caixa Geral de Depositos at the beginning of April - sought to put matter right and the practice sessions began to pay dividends.
The Englishman opened with two birdies and ended his round in similar fashion, holing from 25 feet at the 17th before finding the front edge of the par five 18th in two and two putting for a closing birdie four.
“Although I have been consistent recently, I was a little bit disappointed with Italy and the Forest of Arden because I got up there after a couple of days but then fell away both times,” he said.
“So I had a chat with my coach Bob Torrance and we decided it was time to make a little change so we have been doing that the last three weeks. So far I have managed to take it out on the golf course, it is not perfect yet, I am still working on it. It is still a little foreign to me, but the good shots are really good and hopefully the bad ones are not too bad.
“We are just trying to get it a little more consistent but, with anything new, it feels a little bit odd. So I was pleased with that round here because I am not going to hit every fairway, no chance. The stats prove that I am not the straightest off the tee so to get round here in 66, I’m chuffed to bits.”
Also pleased was Challenge Tour Member Groom, who has been playing recently on the Asian Tour and who feared he was not going to be playing at all this week after having begun it in the 16th reserve spot.
But withdrawals saw the 26 year old Australian get a place on Tuesday afternoon and he grabbed the opportunity presented to him with both hands, matching Broadhurst’s 66 without even the help of a full practice round.
“It was great today and I putted really well,” he said. “I missed a short one at the last but that was about my only mistake, if I hadn’t putted so well I would have probably shot about level par. That was the reason. The first few holes I didn’t really have a chance for birdie but I pitched and putted for par a few times and that kept the momentum going.”
Alongside was the leading Dutch player Van der Valk, another player who has been plying his trade in Asia of late but who took full advantage of his local knowledge to card five birdies and only dropped shot - at the last - in his 66.
“Of course, it is nice to play in front of your friends and family,” he said. “It is great. I live about 35 minutes north of here which means I can stay at home. It is great to stay at home for a week because we travel so much that it is great to sleep in your own bed for a week.
Late in the day, Broadhurst, Groom and Van der Valk were joined at the head of affairs by Nystrom and Fernandez-Castano who both birdied the final hole to secure their respective 66s, the Spaniard’s birdie completing an incredible inward half of six under par 29.
“I played solid enough golf on the front nine but I just made a few mistakes,” he said. “But on this course you have to be really patient and see how it goes because if you are able to hit a few fairways in a row, you can make some birdies as I showed, but I was a little lucky too.”
Three players shared sixth place after opening with respective 67s, Markus Brier, Pierre Fulke and Raymond Russell, and while they were all delighted, perhaps the biggest smile of the day coming off the 18th green belonged to Dane Søren Hansen, who carded that rarest of birds, an albatross two.
Hansen used a four iron for the shot from 203 yards, his first albatross in competition. It was the fourth albatross of the year on The 2005 European Tour, the other three having been Philip Archer in the Heineken Classic, Andrew Coltart in the Madeira Island Open Caixa Geral de Depositos, and Darren Clarke in The Daily Telegraph Dunlop Masters.
“It had been a really long day and for every step I walked it was harder because I wasn’t playing well,” said Hansen, who carded a one over par 71. “But then on the last I hit a good drive and just a fantastic four iron. It homed in on the pin in the air and for it to go in, I suppose, was a little bit of luck, but it was a fantastic shot.
“Maarten Lafeber was playing in the group in front of me and the crowd with him had stayed on and they saw everything - it was quite a roar.”